Jewish communities around the world have recently completed their observance of the holiest days of the calendar year: Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), which occurs 10 days later.
These High Holy Days, as they are most often termed, are not ones of merriment; they are the bookend for what is really a 10-day period of personal introspection and reflection on what we -- as individuals and as a community -- have become.
During this period, the book of our lives lays open before God, and through our behavior what we have inscribed upon those pages is a true reflection that is judged on high.
My Jewish faith teaches that there is reward stored up for the righteous and chastisement for the wicked. But, if there is one thing that nearly four decades in the congregational rabbinate have taught me, it is that there really is no rhyme or reason to who gets what along life’s path.
Like it or not, as fair or unfair as it may seem, we all just get what we get and have no other choice but to deal as effectively as possible with whatever it is that comes our way.
In the classic children’s book, “There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon” by Jack Kent, a child finds a dragon the size of a cat in the house.
He immediately tells his parents about what he’s found, but they refuse to believe him, telling their son that it just doesn’t exist. “There are no such things as dragons,” they say.
But that dragon is very real, and every time its existence is denied, that dragon grows bigger and bigger until it finally reaches an overwhelming size and starts walking away wearing the entire house like an overcoat.
Finally at this point, the child’s parents acknowledge that yes, there is a dragon in the house, and just as soon as they do, that humongous dragon suddenly shrinks back to its initially manageable cat size.
The message in the imagery is this: When there are problems or situations in our lives, we ought not pretend (like the child’s parents) that those problems simply do not exist. If we do, then like the dragon in the tale, they too will just become bigger and bigger and bigger until one day those problems completely overwhelm us.
So, the High Holy Days of the Jewish faith just past remind us, in great part, that deserving or undeserving, fair or unfair, dragons do periodically appear in all of our lives, and that in God’s eye, the manners in which we handle them are to great extent the most significant passages in the books of our lives.
Rabbi Larry Schlesinger serves Temple Beth Israel in Macon.